11 Common Traits of Mass Murderers and Serial Killers

Murder, Crime

Could your neighbor be a mass murderer? Could one of your friends actually be a serial killer? Worse yet, could you be raising a child that’s going to grow up to be the next Jared Lee Loughner?

It’s a horrifying thought, but the truth is these violent criminals come from somewhere. Many of them are living among us now, and we don’t even realize it until it’s too late.

But surely there must be a way we can identify mass murderers and serial killers, right?

Related: Serial killers: The forgotten sociopaths

As it turns out, mass murderers, serial killers, and other extremely violent individuals do share a range of common traits.

  1. Statistically speaking, the average serial killer is a white male from a lower-to-middle-class upbringing. In fact, over 90 percent of serial killers are men.
  2. Most serial killers are in their 20s or 30s.
  3. Most mass murderers are single or divorced.
  4. As children, soon-to-be serial killers often torture animals.
  5. More than 60 percent of serial killers wet the bed beyond the age of 12.
  6. According to the A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, many serial killers are obsessed with starting fires. Ottis Toole, George Adorno, and Carl Panzram are just a few of the many serial killers with a childhood history of arson.
  7. Many mass murderers and serial killers have an extraordinarily high IQ. For example, the Unabomber is a genius.
  8. A lot of serial killers come from dysfunctional families with an absent father.  Marc Lepine (mass murderer of 14 people) is one of the many examples of fatherless serial killers.
  9. Many serial killers suffered through childhood abuse.   “The Boston Strangler” Albert DeSalvo was even sold off as a slave by his alcoholic father.
  10. Serial killers often have a history of attempted suicide. Charles Edmund Cullen, the most prolific serial killer in the history of New Jersey, had 20 suicide attempts throughout his life.
  11. Mass murderers are often loners who have very few social connections.

Differences Between Serial Killers and Mass Murderers

It’s important to note that there are some fine distinctions between serial killers and mass murderers. Mass murderers have just a single killing spree (e.g. the recent Arizona shooting, Columbine killings, etc.) before being apprehended by police or committing suicide. On the other hand, serial killers try to remain undetected and they can go on killing for several years.

Also, mass murderers kill a large group of people all at once, whereas serial killers are often much more selective with their targets. A serial killer could spend months trying to find the right individual to kill, and can have cooling off periods between murders. The victims often all share a trait, something that has important symbolic meaning to the murderer.

What are some other common characteristics that you think serial killers and mass murderers possess? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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